Divorce is never a painless experience, and it’s even more stressful to divide assets and determine what each party needs to maintain the lifestyle to which they were accustomed during the marriage. While child support relates to the care of minor children, what about the economic needs of the adults? Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance in Colorado and spousal support universally, ensures that each spouse receives a fair amount of financial support to live and establish independence following the end of the marriage.
Spousal maintenance is a court-ordered arrangement where one spouse pays the other–either a lump sum or monthly payments. Colorado family law courts may award alimony payment during a divorce case, involving an income disparity between the divorcing spouses. If one spouse stayed at home to take care of the kids while the other pursued a career, for instance, the first spouse may qualify for spousal support if he or she is in financial need.
If you and your spouse are going through a contested divorce, the experienced divorce lawyers at Brighter Day℠ Law can help you get the best outcome out of an emotional and draining experience. To schedule your initial consultation, contact our family law firm today at (719) 225-4443, or chat with us online to learn how we can help.
What does the Colorado Law say About Alimony?
In Colorado, a family court judge will determine if spousal maintenance is appropriate and, if so, how much and for how long. According to Colorado law, the determination of alimony requires one spouse to file a request following a legal separation, divorce, or annulment, and alimony payment is based on the amount of each spouse’s gross income, financial resources, and marital property, and a reasonable financial need as established during the marriage. After the family court judge determines that alimony payment is appropriate, he or she will then identify the amount and length of alimony payment. In Colorado, alimony is based on the following formula:
The amount of alimony is equal to 40% of the higher-income spouse’s monthly adjusted gross income, minus 50% of the lower-income spouse’s monthly income. After the alimony amount is added to the gross income of the recipient spouse, he or she can’t receive more than 40% of the couple’s combined monthly income.
The duration of alimony depends on the number of months of marriage and it ranges from eleven months for a marriage that lasted for three years to 10 years for a marriage lasted for 20 years. For marriages that lasted longer than 20 years, the family court judges have discretion on how much alimony to award and for how long alimony will be awarded. Sometimes, in long-term marriages, permanent alimony can be granted, which rescinds upon death or remarriage.
Thus, if you’re looking at your own marriage, the timeline may be clear according to the advisory guidelines. Typically, you must have been married for at least three years to qualify for alimony. And if the higher-income spouse grosses $8,000 monthly while the lower-income earner grosses $1,000 monthly income, then you would be eligible for up to $2,700 in monthly support.
However, that formula doesn’t consider that every family law court operates differently, and what you think is going to happen may not happen.
How is Alimony Calculated in Colorado?
Despite a lengthy maintenance statutory guideline that governs the criteria for qualifying for alimony, and the factors courts must consider when determining both the amount and duration of alimony, the two most crucial factors are the duration of the marriage and the spouse’s monthly incomes.
While recognizing the importance of these issues, the Colorado legislature passed maintenance guidelines that apply to alimony cases whereby the decree of dissolution of marriage occurred after January 1, 2014. However, it’s essential to note that these guidelines aren’t binding, or even presumptive, as child support is, but they create an alimony formula, which is only advisory:
The maintenance guidelines don’t create a presumptive amount or term of alimony. Colorado family courts have the discretion to determine a maintenance award that’s fair and equitable for both spouses based upon the entirety of the circumstances. The family law judge must make specific written or oral findings to support the alimony amount and term of maintenance granted to the alimony recipient. The judge must also make an order denying maintenance.
Another provision is that the maintenance formula only applies to alimony cases where the spouses’ combined incomes are $240,000/yr or below ($20,000/month).
With those provisions in mind, here is the formula for taxable maintenance, based upon the spouses’ monthly adjusted gross incomes: 40% of the spouses’ combined monthly adjusted gross incomes minus the lower-income party’s monthly adjusted gross income.
For non-taxable maintenance, if the spouses’ combined monthly incomes are $10,000 or below, the judge must apply an 80% multiplier against the above formula. If the spouses’ combined monthly incomes are above $10,000, then the court must apply a 75% multiplier against the above formula.
What Factors Do Colorado Courts Consider When Calculating Spousal Maintenance?
There’s a common misconception that only women qualify for an award of maintenance. However, the court’s only concern is that the award of maintenance is fair and equitable to both spouses and that the requesting party can prove a need for maintenance.
Typically, family law courts only consider alimony payments appropriate in marriages lasting for over 3 years. In Colorado, family law judges also consider the following additional factors when assessing eligibility for alimony:
- Each party’s financial circumstances, including the actual or potential income from marital property or separate property,
- The alimony payor’s ability to meet the other spouse’s financial needs,
- The party’s lifestyle during the marriage,
- The property division in the divorce,
- Both spouses’ employment, income, and employability, obtainable through additional training or education,
- If one spouse has historically earned lower or higher income than the income reflected at the time of the permanent orders and the consistency and duration of income from overtime or secondary employment,
- The duration of the marriage,
- The amount and duration of temporary alimony during the divorce proceedings,
- Each spouse’s health and age, including if either party has significant health care needs or unreimbursed or uninsured health care expenses,
- If either spouse significantly contributed to the other spouse’s educational, economic, or occupational advancement, and
- Any other additional factor the family law court deems relevant.
Once the court makes an initial finding that alimony is appropriate, the family law judge must then determine the amount of alimony to be awarded and the duration of maintenance.
How Long Do You Have to Pay Spousal Support in Colorado?
If a family court judge deems spousal maintenance appropriate in a divorce case, he or she may order temporary maintenance or permanent award to one spouse. Temporary alimony awards are very common. Temporary awards don’t last for the rest of the recipient’s life. A temporary spousal support order may last until the divorce case is finalized, especially if one party requested spousal support during the divorce process. Other times, a family law judge may include a temporary order as part of the divorce decree. Colorado has lengthy and detailed guidelines of how long alimony will last if the couple was married at least 3 years but less than twenty years.
- If you have been married for 3 years, the alimony duration becomes 31% of the duration of the marriage, which means you’ll pay alimony for 11 months.
- If you have been married for 5 years, the maintenance term becomes 35% of the length of the marriage, which means you’ll pay alimony for 21 months.
- If you have been married for 10 years, the maintenance term becomes 45% of the length of the marriage, which means you’ll pay support for 54 months.
- If you have been married for 15 years, the alimony duration is 50% of the length of the marriage, which means you’ll pay support for 90 months.
- And if you have been married for 20 years, the maintenance term is 50% of the length of the marriage, which means you’ll pay support for 120 months.
Again, these maintenance guidelines only apply if the divorcing couple makes $240,000 or less in combined income. Otherwise, the family law courts in Colorado Springs will calculate the length of the maintenance order in months based on the duration of the marriage. For marriages that lasted longer than 20 years, the judges have the option to award maintenance for a specific number of years or indefinitely. However, a judge’s decision depends on the circumstances of the case.
Contact Our Experienced Family Law Attorneys Today for Legal Advice!
Although there are statutory guidelines in Colorado that govern payment of spousal maintenance, strict adherence to the guidelines isn’t required and family law judges in Colorado have a great deal of power making alimony determinations and determining the duration of spousal maintenance. Thus, determining appropriate maintenance isn’t a simple case of punching numbers into an alimony calculator.
Often, the amount of spousal maintenance payments is a point of dispute between spouses. Factors such as consideration of earning potential, recent redundancy, or employability and non-employability, and the age and health status of both parties are also considered. The family court judge treats each case individually and there’s a lot of room for discretion.
To get a clear picture of your rights and responsibilities regarding spousal maintenance, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Brighter Day℠ Law today at (719) 225-4443 for a case evaluation.